Concrete Decisions
The space for the new bath was limited, so my goal was to keep it simple—not even installing a bathtub. But when I started thinking about resale appeal, I changed my mind, juggling the modest room like a Rubik's Cube and swapping the locations of the toilet and shower to make space. Still, most tubs were too big. So I thought, "Why not build my own? It just has to hold water, and that's not rocket science." I ran the idea by Craig Smith, who was building the bath's concrete double vanity as well as the kitchen counters. He, too, likes a challenge, and though it required using five individually cast pieces held together with epoxy and treated with a waterproofing sealant, I had a 32-by-62-by-18-inch custom-made concrete tub.

Because I like to cook, I decided to gut the kitchen and expand it into the space taken up by the sunroom. But first I had to level the kitchen floor. I learned why it was so out of whack while replacing some rotted flooring in one corner. A beam bearing much of the weight of the kitchen floor was just hanging there. I jacked it up and then added wood posts and concrete footings in the basement below. A quick floor repair turned into a week of work. But that's the way it goes with remodeling, I guess.

Scavenger's Eye
Resourcefulness, which is handy on a limited budget, comes naturally to me. I always have my eyes open. For instance, the kitchen's concrete countertops, which were custom-made by Craig for a local designer, had been rejected for having tiny air pockets. I made an offer, knowing I could fill those minute flaws with grout matched to the color of the concrete. Similarly, the kitchen's pot rack—originally built as a restaurant wineglass-rack prototype by my design firm—was destined for scrap when I saw its potential.

Professional connections helped in other ways. I asked my coworker, interior designer Stacey Kirby, for advice on paint colors for the dining room. Plus, much of my work is restaurant design, so I have access to a world of professional kitchen fixtures and fittings. The extra-long-armed commercial faucet I selected is a good example. I liked its look, and it was no more expensive than residential options.

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